Caregiver to the dying, Handmaiden of Death

I have spent the last six years caring for my ailing mother-in-law. In that time I have seen her deteriorate from a semi-independent woman who needed assistance such as preparing meals and handling other household tasks to someone who needs help with the most basic facets of life. It saddens me because in her prime my mother-in-law was a fiercely independent woman. Despite the fact that she has a developmentally disabled son, she never asked for help. Now she is unable to walk without assistance. What makes it both sadder and a relief is that she is unaware of how helpless she is. She is like an infant – knowing only that she needs something and relying on someone else to provide it.

Dark Goddess Death

I feel like Death’s handmaiden. I am not in any way contributing to this process (although dealing with this has given me a new appreciation for euthanasia). My task is to calm her, provide what she needs (to the best of my ability) and try to ensure she’s not alone if/when her time comes. Having said all of this, I cannot help and will not justify the resentment I feel about this situation; the rage that flares up inside me at unexpected moments. The desperate wish I have that it would all just be over and I could reclaim my life again.

I am no saint or martyr. This current situation is intolerable to me. I detest it with every fiber of my being. Sometimes I practically vibrate with it. Every effort made to find assistance from external sources (government agencies, visiting nurse services, etc.) has either proven to be a dead end or beyond our financial means. I’m not willing to put this woman, who spent much of her life caring for family members, into a nursing home where she will be strapped down and drugged until her body can take no more. I may hate the lack of control and independence I have in my life right now but I would have that situation even more. I also don’t think I could forgive myself for it.

Well-meaning friends and acquaintances have spouted various platitudes about some divine being who does not give us more than we can handle. Generally my response is either a pained grimace or a colorful rejoinder which includes various profanities (depending upon how well I know the person). I bitch and moan to anyone and everyone who will listen, including the indifferent gods whose existence I honor. I get it – this will end when it is meant to end. However I must reiterate that it sucks beyond measure.

The main take-away I’ve gotten from this experience is a fierce determination not to find myself in a similar situation. I have no one that I can count on to care for me if I end up like my mother-in-law. I’ve also seen the various nursing home facilities available for elderly people in this condition and the reality is that if a family member is not a regular visitor and if one’s health coverage doesn’t provide enough benefits, the patient/family member ends up ignored, neglected, and even abused in some circumstances. That thought gives me nightmares.

Wheel of Change Death

I don’t believe we deal well with death in our modern culture. We fight it with a desperate determination that often results in circumstances like this one. The body keeps going because medical technology can maintain the status quo but it can’t do much to stop the progress of diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia. So the body is kept alive and as healthy as possible while the mind continues to disintegrate.

Support services for caregivers who are tending to family members in this condition are minimal and (in my experience) woefully inadequate. It’s wonderful that there are support groups, but if I cannot leave the family members alone how exactly do I attend? Home visits from doctors? Oh sure they still happen, just not in this part of the county. Home care assistance? It’s available but not to my mother-in-law because she’s not on Medicaid. My brother-in-law (who is deaf and retarded) is eligible but services cannot be activated without a doctor’s approval. No doctors make home visits in this area and he will not leave the house without a serious fight. It’s a Catch-22 that leaves you bitter, exhausted and defeated. I hate it!!! In fact, I cannot stress how much I hate it. The only thing I would hate more is to have to institutionalize these two people that I love. I accept that. It’s the trade-off I make in my life. I’ll put things on hold to tend to them and I can still face myself in the mirror and sleep at night. It’s not a perfect situation but it’s the best I can do right now.

So if there is anyone else out there who has found themselves in similar circumstance, please know that you have my respect and admiration. It’s a thankless task that is fairly unappreciated by the wider society. Make sure you keep in touch with friends somehow or else the isolation with warp you. Take care of yourself. Even if all you can do is spend 10 minutes every day one yourself, treat that time as sacred. I’ve done the “giving my all to the relatives” trip and burnt out quick. I have found the work of Jennifer Louden and SARK to be inspirational and helpful in dealing with all of this. I still find it difficult to balance time for me with their needs but I’m stumbling along and finding ways. And if your choices are different than my own and you had to make the agonizing decision to institutionalize your loved one, please know that you have my sympathy and support. No one else can understand what you went through and how difficult it was for you to make that decision. Don’t allow anyone to shame you because of it. We are all just doing the best we can in this life and shouldn’t be held to someone else’s standards or expectations.

Death – Blue Rose Tarot

Blue Rose Death

 

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The Book says: In the Blue Rose Tarot, the symbolism of the Death card mirrors the continuing, unfolding journey of the Fool. In the foreground stands the very gateway, here represented by a human skull. It is the Threshold leading from one existence into another. The skull is flanked by two roses – one red and one white. They symbolize the dual aspects of the Fool. The red rose symbolizes human existence in the material, physical world. The white rose symbolizes the spiritual being. Within the empty sockets of the skull are two dice. Snake eyes. When playing dice, rolling snake eyes means finality — the game is over. And for the Fool, this particular stage of the Game is over. But look further past the forbidding gateway, for in the distance, we see the Fool, symbolized by the lavender butterfly winging his way across the dark terrain, following the beaming rays of light leading him onward towards a horizon that we cannot interpret or see beyond. What is beyond that mercurial sky? That sky filled with light, electricity, color and movement? It is not for us to know. We will find out when the time comes. When it is our turn to follow the rays of light and continue our own Great Journey.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card reminds us that sometimes we need to stare what we fear the most in the face and learn to see beyond it. The crystal skull, with its burning red eyes, represents our fragility and a state of being that we ultimately cannot avoid. As the saying goes “nothing in life is certain except death and taxes”. Well ladies and gentlemen, this is death; this is what we are when we are stripped of our flesh, our hair, our personalities. Stripped to the bone we all become amazingly similar, all those external factors that allow us to create barriers in life are gone and we are all truly equal now.

Even as we face this image of our greatest fears we see the beauty and wonder in life too. The two roses, the butterfly and even the color of the sky and clouds overhead are wondrous and beautiful. And the crystal skull has a pink tinge to it, a reminder that once we pass the skull, once we open that door and pass through this fearsome gateway, we will find a new beauty. It represents the potential and transformative energies that await us. Those black cliffs might look fearsome and overwhelming, but once we cross them we will find ourselves embraced by the beautiful sky above. We too can be like the butterfly emerging from its cocoon. We can spread our wings and enchant those around us with our grace, beauty and joy. But we can only experience this transformation is we dare to open that door.

Always an outlier, never a trend

The older I grow the more I realize that I cultivate and revel in my self-perceived status as an outlier, a misfit, a weirdo, an oddball. One of the earliest caveats I can remember my parents instilling in me is not to do something simply because everyone else is doing it. The phrase “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?” was tossed about a lot. As a result I developed a knee jerk reaction against being what I perceive as a follower. The more popular an opinion is the more likely I am to find reason to disagree with it. The more popular a book or television show, the less likely I am to watch it (at least while it’s still popular anyway). Even the activities and hobbies I do enjoy, I tend to share with only a small group of friends. For example I am almost rabid about the TV show Supernatural. If you’re my friend you know that because I have made your ears bleed with analyses of the characters and plots as well as bitched about what irritated me. However I only recently joined a FaceBook fan group because I am well aware that there are fans out there whose opinions of the show and various character relationships will irritate me. So why subject myself to them or vice versa.

Dark Goddess 6 of Air

Being an outlier can sometimes be lonely. I often find that not only do I avoid following the trend, I don’t understand the mindset of those who do. For example, not only have I never desired to become a mother I cannot understand why anyone else would want to either. I have no desire to impose my attitudes on others but I cling to them fairly fiercely nonetheless.

Being an outlier means that you are often misunderstood. My sense of humor is quirky at best. Comments I intend to be humorous can often come off as dark, sarcastic or bewildering to someone who doesn’t know me or doesn’t get it. I know this about myself. I’m the first to admit that I’m an acquired taste. I have a feeling I have often unintentionally alienated people I would have liked as friends because I don’t realize until it’s too late that maybe that comment wasn’t appropriate. A bit of moderation on my part right result in fewer hurt feelings and more social connections. I have to admit that I can be quite oblivious to how my pronouncements sound to others until it’s too late.

One thing I know about myself is that I hate it when something I enjoy becomes popular. For example I have always colored. It is one of my few creative outlets. From the time I can remember happiness was a new box of 64 Crayola crayons. The smell of a new box affects me the way “new car” aroma affects car guys. I still have Barbie coloring books that I bought in the early 80s. Now coloring for adults has become a trend and while I enjoy the new adult oriented coloring books out there, I detest feeling as though I’ve joined the popular kids’ table. I have the same issue with Tarot. As long as it’s a fringe profession and interest I’ll be happy. Recently it’s become a popular party game with folks who have never used a Tarot deck before (rather like Ouija boards were in the 70s). I would never try to limit anyone’s access to Tarot knowledge but using it in such a silly manner irritates me. Once again, not trying to make any rules to stop folks from doing it this way but I’ll be glad when this trend passes.

Dark Goddess Wheel

Why am I mentioning all of this? Because I have decided to abandon that bastion of trendiness and popularity – Facebook. I only recently re-joined because I wanted to connect with my Tarot friends but I quickly realized that Facebook gives me hives. It’s pimping of my information offends me. If my ass is going to be sold then I deserve a piece of the profits. So I’ve decided to reclaim my outlier status and once again depart Facebook. It wasn’t until I made this decision that I realized how much Facebook irritates me. Yes, I love the fact that I can easily keep in touch with friends. However the truth is if I can’t bother writing an email or calling them on the phone I have to wonder how close our relationship is. I am staying on Twitter and Pinterest and I’ve joined MeWe. So if you’re on any of these platforms and want to keep in touch – please do. As for me, after July 31st Facebook will be a memory in my rearview mirror.

Death – Transformational Tarot

Transformational Death

 

Transformation Tarot
Created by by Arnell Ando
Published by US Games ISBN:1572815396

The Book says: Transformation and spiritual evolution. The stripping away of outgrown feelings or beliefs. The end of the old and the birth of a new cycle. The need to surrender to the inevitability of change. An ending that is illusory when viewed from a higher perspective. The natural conclusion of a stagnated relationship or familiar situation that stifled individual growth and change.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: In this card Death is portrayed as having not only a recognizably human face, but a heart too. This Death is not an unapproachable figure, but one who seems to offer welcome and solace. Yes, she wields a scythe which can separate us from the physical world. At the same time her love and compassion allow us to move closer to the spiritual. A snake winds around her legs and she stands on a rattlesnake skin, reminding us of the snake’s ability to shed it’s old skin and grow a new one. The is the blessing this Death offers us. She allows us to shed our worldly skin and grow in spirit. She guides us along the way, refusing to abandon us while we are at this delicate and defenseless stage in our growth.

This is the Goddess as Crone, she who destroys and releases so that the new growth has room to shoot through. She may be surrounded by skeletons and death but she is not forbidding or unapproachable. We can see her love for us and understand that she is helping to release us from the bonds of the past so that we can move into the future unburdened and ready to learn and grow more. Death may still seem frightening because it is so unknown, but at least with this Death card we won’t be walking towards it alone.

I am the night, color me black – embracing your inner darkness

Do you know what I am?
I am the darkness that lives inside you.
I am that black hole in your soul you fear will consume you.
I am the midnight sky that offers no relief and no hint of light.
You fear me and run from me; you avoid me and deny me
But in truth you cannot survive without me.

I always remember a favorite classic Star Trek episode when Captain Kirk is split into two by a transporter malfunction. One Captain Kirk is thoughtful, considerate, civilized, all those qualities we associate with being good. His alternate self was aggressive, violent and even dangerous, all the qualities we associate with being bad. During the course of the episode it becomes apparent that without his “bad” side, Capt. Kirk was ineffective, paralyzed and unable to make command decisions. He needed his “bad” side in order to function as captain of the ship. It was an interesting lesson in human nature, one which I think is still very applicable today.

Lately it seems to me that “civilized” society is trying to sanitize and deny our darkness – both personal and societal. We have created a world where all but the most stubborn, determined or ignorant know that there are PC viewpoints to which they must adhere or at least pay lip service. Pundits and the oblivious claim we are a “post-racial” society when clearly this is untrue. Some do not believe that we need feminism anymore because the playing field has been leveled.  Other stubbornly cling to the belief that economic inequality is not at the root of many societal problems.   I believe people have just grown better at hiding their politically incorrect beliefs from others. We try to suppress and repress that inner darkness and believe that means we’ve healed it. In reality all we’ve done is crush it down and bury it, hoping it won’t erupt some day. Of course that is exactly what happens. We cannot avoid our personal and inner darkness; we cannot suppress it and hope it will go away. We need to face it, embrace it and see what it brings to the table so we can remove its more destructive aspects.

I have no intention of trying to fix society’s ills today. That is beyond my pay grade. What I”m hoping to do is explore my avoidance of my own darkness and hope that it offers a take-away that might be beneficial to others.

Like many people, for years I never truly embraced or even understood my dark side. I might have joked about it and claimed I understood it. Sure I could be nasty, vicious, snarky, and mean but that wasn’t really me. I wasn’t a mean person; I was just joking. However, even I didn’t buy the “I was just joking” defense. The reality is that there was a very dark, somewhat vicious and uncontrolled part of me that would often rear its ugly head when I least expected. For years I acknowledge that I had this darkness inside me but never did anything about it. I fooled myself into believing that acknowledging was the same as embracing. Boy, was I mistaken!

Dark Goddess Siren of Air

It’s only through a recent inner labyrinth journey using the Dark Goddess Tarot that I began to understand this darkness. It is not evil or wicked. It is born of fear. When I looked at incidences that triggered these responses from me I began to realize they occurred when I felt afraid, powerless or disenfranchised. I reacted from this darkness when an incident triggered a memory of a negative past experience. This darkness became a defense mechanism like a porcupine’s quills; a way to keep others that made me feel threatened at a distance. Unfortunately it tended to have the effect of alienating people who had no malicious intent.

Dark Goddess 7 of Earth

Walking the labyrinth to the deepest, darkest, most hidden depths of my soul has enabled me to truly understand this side of myself. It has allowed me to truly embrace this dark side and appreciate what she brings to the table. She is the part of me that is a survivor. She has experienced trauma and horrific situations and emerged unbroken. She protects and defends me with a fierceness and determination that I can only admire. What I have also accepted is that she does not need to be deployed mindlessly or aimlessly. She is much more effective when responding in a more targeted, specific way.

So my advice to anyone else whose dark side might be running amok – learn what triggers her. Listen to her and get to learn what makes her lash out. In my experience befriending and embracing your dark side can only happen when you understand her. Facing your fears and defensive triggers can be a first step in that process.

Creativity – my path to wholeness and healing

Over the last few days I’ve reconnected to a creative outlet that I had allowed to become dormant – coloring! As a child and adolescent I adored coloring. If I wasn’t nose deep in a book then I was energetically putting my box of 64 Crayolas to good use. One of my strongest sense memories is the smell of a box of Crayola crayons. No other crayons have that same aroma. I would recognize it anywhere. I still remember picking up two Dover coloring books from the gift shop at the Museum of the City of New York during a class trip. One was Geometric Designs and the other was Visual Illusions. The optical illusions were mind-blowing and it was a fabulous change from my usual Barbie coloring books (although I still have several of them too). There is something so engaging, relaxing and just plain fun about coloring. Over the years I might not have used those coloring books but I always made sure to have a big box of Crayola crayons – first a 64 count, then a 96 count and now a 200 count!

Why am I talking about coloring? Because for many, many years I believed I was not a creative person. I cannot draw much beyond stick figures. I may enjoy singing but I doubt anyone will ever pay to hear me or even volunteer to listen. I love to dance but will be the first to admit my skills are amateurish at best. The most creative thing I do is write – and even that I tend to blow off as not especially creative as much as it is technically skilled. Beginning to color again has changed my attitude about all of that. Perhaps I don’t have the eye or hand for painting but that doesn’t make me non-creative. Watching a line drawing fill in with colors I’ve selected, creating patterns within the pattern, has proven fulfilling and satisfying. It has also helped me to see other ways in which I am creative.

I see patterns and connections between disparate elements. I’ve noticed that when I read the Tarot I often find connections between the cards that are not obvious. The better I know the querent, the more effective and interesting the connections I make. I’m like a conspiracy theorist – seeing connections that aren’t immediately apparent to the casual observer. I love writing – not just blog posts but Tarot card haiku. I love making up stories using the images on Tarot cards as a starting point. I may not be a technically proficient dancer but I put my heart and soul into it. I can shake my moneymaker like nobodies business!

Dark Goddess Witch of Water

Today I asked Sekhmet for some insight into continuing to explore my creative side. She sent me Haya-Akitsu-Hime/Witch of Water, the Shinto goddess of the sea. Her salt waters purify and transform. As I’m writing this I had an insight – Haya-Akitsu-Hime is telling me that my emotional connection to coloring is also a path to purity and transformation for me. It will allow me to purge the impurities and emotional baggage that often distracts me from what makes me happy and what I love in life.

Pearls of Wisdom 2 of Wands Pearls of Wisdom 4 of Swords

For additional insight I pulled two cards from the Pearls of Wisdom Tarot. In response to my query about blending my creative energies in a way that will bring radiance and healing in my life I drew the 2 of Wands reversed and 4 of Swords. With a little help from the companion book, I took this to mean that I’m on the right path; I’m moving in the right direction. Combining meditation and modified mini-retreats for myself will allow me to move forward, explore new horizons and continue on this path of wellness and wholeness I’ve begun. Coloring is one method of meditation and creativity that can aid me in my quest.

So my advice to anyone out there who sees themselves as uncreative is to keep looking; find the right avenue for you. We are all creative in different ways. The key to healing and wellness is to find the path that fits you. Perhaps you are a mathematical genius and see connections between equations and real life applications. Maybe you look at the stars and see a panoply of amazing bodies of celestial beauty that connect to Greek myths and life on Earth. Maybe you’re a history buff and love seeing the connections between past actions and current events. Perhaps dancing is a balm to your soul or singing at the top of your voice brings joy to your heart. As Karen Carpenter once sang “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear. Just sing, sing a song.”

Azazel, Angel of Death – Mansions of the Moon Tarot

Mansions of the Moon Azazel, Angel of Death

 

Mansions of the Moon Tarot
ZADOK (dahogue@nctc.net)
Self-Published

The LWP says: Traditional meaning – pale horse of revelation, Biblical imagery.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card shows a fairly dark, somewhat gloomy image of death. The skulls, black candles and horse’s head all give it the appearance of some type of dark mass or dark ceremony. The hooded figure, with it’s small gray head is ominous and eerie. The wings may be the wings of an angel or may be a cape of feathers. Either way this figure does not inspire hope and faith but rather fear and awe.

Maybe because it is so full of Biblical imagery, I don’t find much comfort or relief in this vision of Death. It reminds me of smoky, incense filled churches with voices intoning hymns for the dead. It brings to mind warnings of damnation and the need to ask for forgiveness and repent before it is too late. Once the bowl is broken it can no longer be fixed – once you have died you cannot make amends for your faults.

This card is about transformation, releasing and letting go. But it also visually and symbolically shows the fearful aspects of death – the pale horse upon which Death rides, the skulls, etc. But when we are finally able to peer into the cowl and face death head on – we see the humanity hidden there. And suddenly maybe, just maybe, Azrael, the Angel of Death is not quite so fearful and terrifying anymore.